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Letters: Fossil fuels must still have a vital part in the energy mix

Fossil fuels must still have a vital part in the energy mix


Fossil fuel: Don’t underestimate its benefits


I was intrigued by Peter Hinson’s description of the European Supergrid as “the magic but elusive energy storage that some people wish” and wondered who he had in mind (NCE 13 October)?

Surely few householders have the slightest idea about the “Supergrid”.

Perhaps, policy makers who need a line to take for future worriers complaining about fossil fuel power station closures driving up the price of an entirely new item on many weekly shopping lists, namely candles and perhaps, a very few, who ask how much does all this “magic” cost?

As Hinson revealed, energy policy provision is an unclear balance of fossil fuel, nuclear, wind and sun power generation.

Not explained by Hinson, is that this unclear balance has to keep the economy alive and meet environmental demands borne of a fear that fossil fuel CO2 emissions are driving dangerous global warming.

However, while official observers say it is still getting hotter, unofficial observers say it is getting colder and fear a mini ice age and one wonders, which is preferable?

Back in 1938, when climate change scientist Guy Callander read his seminal paper to the Royal Meteorological Society on the “Artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on temperature” such as fossil fuel burning, he was decidedly upbeat.

Callander concluded that burning fossil fuels would be beneficial in “the provision of heat and power” and the associated small related CO2 driven increases in climate temperature, “would be important at the northern margin of cultivation” also, increased levels of CO2 would aid plant growth and finally, “the return of the deadly glaciers should be delayed indefinitely”.

On these conclusions, nuclear, wind and sun power generation are surely no match for fossil fuels.

  • Rennie Witt (M, retired),, Ashley Road, Epsom, Surrey KT18 5BW

Flexible budgeting

The interview in last week’s issue with John Armitt, discussing the lessons learned by the Olympic Delivery Authority, strangely omitted one factor which many may think crucial to the project’s success.

Completion on time and within budget is clearly greatly facilitated by quadrupling the project budget, including a contingency sum greater than the original budget for the entire scheme.

Unfortunately, in these straitened times, this project management technique seems unlikely to be available for schemes of any scale in the foreseeable future.

  • Peter Watts (F, retired)

Save the lock keepers

Once again the River Thames’s lockkeepers’ cottages are under attack from the Environment Agency. In 2008 they were saved from being sold because of a huge swell of public support.

Now the Agency intends to rent the lock cottages out as they become vacant and not replace permanent resident lockkeepers as they leave.

Whether you are a boater, a walker, a home owner or just an occasional visitor to the river, the job the lockkeepers do is vital. They are not on duty 24/7 but if there is a problem they invariably turn out.

If there is flooding at night, who turns out to change the weirs? Who maintains the beautiful lock gardens and paths? Who helps novice boaters in trouble? Who is on hand to combat vandalism? Who is on hand to deal with emergencies such as boats on fire?

Without resident lockkeepers, the whole ambience of the river will be at risk. At times of flooding the risks will be far greater.

This penny pinching scheme to reduce the number of resident lockkeepers is nothing short of vandalism. If economies have to be made and, I agree that they do, the Agency big bosses in their shiny glass offices and their minions concocting manic schemes on their computers must be first to go.

Front line staff, resident lockkeepers and river maintenance workers must be protected at all costs.

  • Jim Wanamaker, 23 Ham Island, Old Windsor, Berkshire

Land value levy is a tax too far

James Barrett’s support for land value tax is as absurd as Stamp Duty, a tax paid when you purchase your home after scrimping and saving that sees you contribute to governmental funds for which they have played no part, apart from giving the developer endless hassle during the planning stage.

What beggars belief is that this tax is passed on to the next purchaser and indeed on to you again with your next purchase; ad infinitum. This is a veritable gold mine for the government.

We have become a country obsessed with taxes for which, when you analyse the issue down to the nth degree, results simply in local and central government being the only parties that gain from the fruits of our labour.

Leave well alone. The penalty has already been paid along the rail/road corridors in terms of the inevitable expensive public enquiries.

The suggestion that land value tax would not be a new tax but would rather replace other existing taxes is simply looking at the world through rose tinted glasses.

The government should plough more money into our infrastructure to boost the economy not take more from less.

  • Mario Donnetti (F),

Merge buildings not institutions

Please can I urge JR Volk (NCE 13 October) to think twice about recommending the merger of all institutions.
If we want an encompassing political representative body there are other avenues.

The things I particularly want from a professional body are simply having the opportunity to improve technical competence and to have something to feel a part of.

That may be a tribal thing and if so good. Why should Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” not apply to tribal self actualisation?

Anyone who has used one stop shops knows that they have to pay more and increased quality of service is not always guaranteed.

If that is what big clients want, it is not for us to question, but to re-organise our institutions on the same model is a fallacy when the clientele areindividuals.

That apart I have to agree with the writer that a single HQ in London having a symbiotic relation with several institutions and having their back offices in a lower cost “carbon free” centre is a good one, (why not rent out the other HQs?).

Fees are enormous for the perceived added value to a chartered engineer.

  • Richard Annett,

Finished design

The 2011 British Construction Industry Award’s Major Civil Engineering Project Award for projects over £50M which went to the A421 Improvements M1 Jtn 13 to Bedford failed to recognise the input of the Highways Agency’s project manager Roy Brunsden.

I was design project manager for the scheme and Brunsden, who retired shortly after the project’s completion, deserves praise for managing the contractor and designer and all other parties so well that the project was completed under budget and ahead of time.

  • Graham Law, 5 Marianne Close, Southampton SO15 4JG

Wide array

In your article on the London Array (NCE 13 October), you mention that Dong Energy developed the foundation design with Ramboll.

This would only be the preliminary design. The final foundation design was undertaken by Cowi-IMS JV for contractor ABJV.

  • Jan Rønberg, project manager, London Array detailed foundation design, Cowi-IMS JV,

Never mind the cost, let’s get tunnelling

The Victorians found that building a new transport system within London could only be achieved by tunnelling under the streets.

Similarly today, the only way engineers can keep the public supportive is to build all new high speed rail corridors in tunnels, providing an efficient all-weather rail system long into the future.

The next question is where to build it. However, this again is obvious. By closely following the existing motorway network alignment it simplifies construction access, long term maintenance, minimises the problems associated with noise and vibration and if the worst were to happen, provides efficient emergency access.

By using the same design standards as the Channel Tunnel, we can extend shuttle transport throughout the UK, thereby introducing for the first time a completely new means of reliable long distant transportation, both for commercial vehicles and indeed private motorists.

Construction on site could be started within three to five years in many regions of the UK at the same time. In the south east for instance linking Heathrow and Gatwick and continuing onto the Thames Estuary airport site would form an important first stage of the London (M25) tunnel ring.

The tunnel network would join Scotland, Wales and all our major ports and centres of industry directly through to Europe.

Based on recent events, the total cost of such a project would be less than the stock market can lose/gain in a single week’s trading but, unlike the stock market, be of benefit to all for generations to come.

What are we waiting for?

Why not allow the UK civil engineers to continue leading the world in infrastructure design, but this time while working within their home country?

  • PWT Hardy (M),

Letters to the editor

NCE welcomes letters from readers.

We attempt to print as many as possible, which means letters longer than 200 words are likely to be condensed.


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